The USGA's 2011 Herbert Warren Wind Book Award winner
I would suggest, however, that no money be lent for constructing an elaborate clubhouse. The first club of which I was a member had only a hundred dollar hut as a clubhouse and beer and sandwich luncheons, yet we got as much health and happiness out of it as any other. ALISTER MACKENZIE
At least when the USGA messes with a time-tested golf course, they try to act like it was someone else's idea. Preferably, a golf architect.
Not the R&A. Mike Aitken writes about the effort to inundate Turnberry with more driver-eliminating bunkers. Donald Steel is the supervising architect, but he's not the one making the decisions.
"There are a number of other changes in the pipeline which are yet to be finalised between ourselves and the Royal and Ancient," [Turnberry GM Stewart] Selbie added. "The discussions are ongoing. Obviously, there are going to be some changes to championship tees. Just adding length to the links is not necessarily the answer, although there are a couple of instances where we will be looking to add a little more distance around the 16th and 17th holes."
Concerned that Turnberry's finishing stretch, which brought out the best in Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson in 1977, is not quite as testing as it once was for a new generation of players who all hit the ball further than their predecessors, the R&A is examining a number of options related to the positioning of tees and greens.
David Hill, the R&A's director of championships, said: "Peter Dawson, our chief executive, is due to visit Turnberry later in February and will have a look at three different options. As it stands, we think we could make the 17th even better."
Now, anyone can hang out a sign and call themselves an architect. Guilty as charged.
But is it really the job of the R&A Executive Secretary to meddle in course design?
Well, it beats doing something about the distance problem.
President Bush hosted the victorious U.S. Walker Cup at the White House, with chaperones...
USGA incoming President Walter Driver (he officially takes office on Feb. 4), outgoing president Fred Ridley, Hall, Lewis and players Matt Every, Brian Harman, Billy Hurley, Anthony Kim, Michael Putnam, Kyle Reifers and Lee Williams entered the Oval Office in single file. (Three players from the team, John Holmes, Nicholas Thompson and Jeff Overton had prior PGA Tour commitments and did not attend). Bush greeted each one individually.
I wonder if Bush asked how long the Dulles baggage claim took?
In this story, Brian Harmon talks about the president and the compliment he paid him.
“It was a real honor to be at the White House,” the Savannah native said from Washington before boarding a plane. “President Bush is such a great guy. He’s very down to earth. We actually talked some about Georgia football. I told him I think he’s doing a heck of a job.”
You know what this week's Dubai event means? Time for player-architects to make ceremonial design visits!
At IMG they call this synergy.
I know you've all been wondering about the progress of Ernie Els' signature design in Dubai. So there are plenty of quotes in this story from the Big Easy about how wonderful it is. But here's the money quote a man named U and whose last name is the real reason copy and paste was invented:
Accompanying the Big Easy on his tour, U Balasubramaniam, CEO Dubai Sports City, said:” It is a great pleasure to have Ernie back in Dubai and we are particularly pleased that he has been able to take time out of his busy schedule to take a look at the ongoing construction of his golf course. We are proud to have such a big name in the game of golf associated with Dubai Sports City.”
Yes, pleased he could take time out of his schedule to look at the construction of his course. The sacrifices.
Speaking of sacrifices, Vijay actually talked to reporters about his project. Actually, these sound more like press release quotes...
The Fijian born star then flew to the site of his course at Jumeirah Golf Estates, which lies approximately 22km south west of Dubai city centre to review the initial course routing plan against the existing topography and wind direction, discuss tee and green heights, and review the proposed lake edge details and integration of the real estate components.
Singh said: 'We have an incredible canvas to work with for my course at Jumeirah Golf Estates. I am honoured that Nakheel has given me and my design team the opportunity to showcase my design skills and commitment. I take this responsibility very seriously, and clearly I'm not the kind of person that settles for second-best.'
'My courses are designed by Vijay Singh, not for Vijay Singh,' he continued. 'The Water course will be a challenging test of golf, but it won't be unfair. This golf course will stand the test of time and will be a worthy addition to the best courses in the world.'
Tiger Woods at the Buick, his 47th career PGA Tour victory in 186 starts:
Driving Distance 309.8 yards (all drives, 3rd for week)
Driving Accuracy Percentage 46.4% (26/56, T55)
Greens in Regulation Pct. 73.6% (53/72, T/9 for week)
Putting Average 1.774 (GIR Putts - 94/Greens - 53, T36)
The PGA Tour average drive dropped another yard to 287.1 after the Buick Invitational. And for further proof the guys need to hit the gym before Scottsdale, there were only 3 drives of 350 yards (or more), bringing the tally to 459 through four events.
There were 2059 drives over 350 in all of 2005.
That's two weeks in a row without a 400 yarder! Now that's progress.
And if you are wondering why these growing numbers are followed, a full explanation is available here.
John Huggan looks at the impact the new PGA Tour TV deal will have on the European Tour and his general thoughts on why the Tour had a hard time getting an ideal package.
Despite the tedious and prolonged protestations of certain equipment companies apparently unconcerned with a big picture that isn't painted solely by their own bottom lines, maybe the public really is jaded by the one-dimensional crash-bang-wallop nature of a modern game in which shot making, imagination and flair have taken distant back seats to power.
It happened in tennis, so it can happen in golf.
So as the sublime touch of John McEnroe has morphed into bashers like Andy Roddick, so Tom Watson will become Bubba. I know which I'd prefer to watch.
It'll never be confused with Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" proclamation, but the mid-fourth round car wreck at Torrey Pines prompted Gary McCord to note that the play looked "like my buddies at home," which then had Peter Kostis announcing "I have a theory, I have a theory."
You keep building golf courses like this thing and you're going to breed a generation of 6'5" 240 pound golfers where power is everything. This golf is brutal...
Bobby Clampett chimed in at this point to remind us that the course is 7,600 yards at sea level, so we didn't get to hear Kostis expand on the theory.
So, was he...
A) Going to say that the architects and developers are to blame for the current state of course setup and the way golf is played (flogging/ugly)?
B) Going to say that architects are to blame for the power game?
C) Going to say that the emergence of 6'5" 240 pound players is the result of equipment that provides significant benefits for those who are taller and stronger?
I'm guessing answer was NOT (C). So let's add architects to the better athletes/agronomy/workout programs/grooves/loft etc... rationale for doing nothing that might impact the sacred ball-driver synergy.
John Huggan talks balls and clubs with Peter Dawson, who, through some form of divine intervention, actually displays a moment of wisdom:
"The longest average drive has moved up about 20 yards in the last ten years," conceded R&A secretary Peter Dawson. "There is no doubt about that. The advent of the ProV1-type ball has most to do with it, along with the bigheaded drivers. So do I think that the game at the top level - this elite few - would benefit from the ball being a little bit shorter? Yes, I do."Ah but the fun only lasts long enough for Dawson to wheel out the latest distraction. That would be this nonsense about grooves.
Speaking exclusively to Scotland on Sunday, Dawson identified a possible loophole through which golf's administrators may - without upsetting litigious equipment companies- discourage the mindless blasting from the tee that is such a feature of today's game. Last year the top three players on the PGA Tour - Woods, Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson - finished 188th, 147th and 161st respectively in driving accuracy. To them, power is apparently all that matters.
"We are considering coming at the distances the elite hit the ball from the other end, if you like," Dawson revealed. "One of the things I don't like to see - and I know it is a view shared by many golf administrators - is this disconnection between driving accuracy and success. The top players don't care about hitting the fairway. And part of the reason why they don't care is the level of control they can get even from the rough with modern wedges and balls.
"And that is why we are having a very hard look at the grooves on club-faces right now. The key is the sharpness of the right-angled edge on every groove. The sharper the grooves, the more spin a good player can potentially put on the ball. It is an effect you see on so many short shots."
You see, the narrowing of course to offset regulatory complacency on distance did not work. And since you cannot further narrow a 22-yard wide fairway without even the most clueless observer noticing the lunacy of it all, well, then something else must be done.
Anything to not address distance. Anything.
I think they'd actually contemplate shrinking the hole before addressing optimization of launch conditions, which is odd since an appropriate policy/test would not impact average golfers. As for the other Band-Aids they are considering so they don't have to lose face and tackle the only issue that matters...
Dawson is also asked what will hopefully be an issue that goes about as far as the pleas to reduce the number of clubs in the bag (that's hopefully no where...). This would be the 60 degree wedge.
"The loft is an interesting issue," he admitted. "I know Tiger is one who has mentioned a 56-degree limit. But the best 60-degree wedge I've ever seen was made in the 1960s. So that is not new, and is not on what I would call the active list.
Is this actually something people are discussing? Eliminating the 60 degree wedge? Oh lordy!
"Ultimately, we and the USGA will decide these groove-related matters. But there is no point in us going over the top out of the trenches if no-one follows us. There are other stakeholders who need to be reasonably content with whatever is done, if anything. For change to be made, it has to be reasonably supported by the tours, the elite players and the manufacturers. And it must not be too damaging to the average player."
Speaking of you and me, Dawson needn't concern himself too much. The notion that re-grooving your 60-degree wedge is automatically going to knock six shots off your next round is unfortunately not one in which it would be wise to place too much faith. Even science can't make up for bad technique.
Lanny Wadkins, during the round 3 Buick telecast, on so few players able to at the 18th at Torrey Pines: "It's almost more fun with there's a little more risk-reward."
With the current setup at at least 571 and featuring almost no landing area, they might as well play it as a par-4 now. Why wait until 2008?
There's always San Diego to show you what bureacratic absurdity is really like. Tod Leonard writes in the San Diego Union Tribune:
For the second time in 15 days, City Councilwoman Donna Frye has put the brakes on talks regarding changes to the Torrey Pines golf courses.
After learning that the city's golf operations department was planning to go to the City Council on Monday and ask for approval to soon begin moving the North Course's 18th green to make room for a new clubhouse that has yet to be approved, Frye took action. She contacted Deputy City Manager Ellen Oppenheim, who agreed to attach a memo to the item with the understanding that no work would be done on the North until a clubhouse project is approved.
Mike Clayton writes in The Age about Melbourne golfer Noel Terry and his discovery of David Strath's grave in Australia, solving one of golfs great mysteries.
Strath's golfing story is an interesting one. He was the rival and friend of the greatest player of the time, Young Tom Morris, who won the Open Championship four times in a row from 1868 to 1872 (there was no championship in 1871). The pair toured Scotland and as far south as Liverpool in England playing exhibition matches, sometimes in front of 10,000 people.
They were the superstars of their time and are credited with popularising the game. Strath was runner-up to Morris in the Open Championships of 1870 and 1872 and in 1876 he tied for the championship at St Andrews but refused to play off because of a rules dispute.
That Open was a shambles as someone had forgotten to book the golf course and players were competing amongst the regular public players. Strath's long approach to the 17th green had hit a spectator on the green and there were protests that he had somehow gained an advantage. He was asked to play off for the title with the undertaking that the question would be settled when an official was available to adjudicate.
Strath refused, reasoning there was little point if he was going to have the crown taken away in the following days.
"Settle it now or I won't be here in the morning" was his not-unreasonable request.
The week kicked off with the first exclusive to this site and ended with a pair of notable contributions.
Scrutinized was the USGA's use of private jet travel for its president (and controlled by the sitting president). The first follow up looked at the cost based on published estimates, another highlighted the comments of USGA Executive Director David Fay, while we wrapped up the quest for details with a firm no from USGA spokesman Marty Parkes.
Former USGA Executive Director Frank Hannigan wrote to this site and raised many issues that will be analyzed next week (I know, you can't wait).
In other news, David Davies joined the technophobic agenda crowd while Chris Lewis looked at the future of the game and wasn't wild about what he saw.
Bill Kratzert talked to Garry Smits about the repercussions of the Tour TV deal and its 2007 departure from ESPN.
Again, reader comments were very interesting on Taylor Made's use of michellewiegolf.com. Thanks again to reader Tuco for the heads up, and to all of the readers who helped out this week. I couldn't do it without your help.
My latest Golfdom column arrived just in time for the PGA Show. The hate mail has slowed...for now.
Tiger Woods talked about the changes to Augusta National and offered some wisdom about setting up the course when its wet.
And finally, there were so many great comments this week on various posts (thanks for the contributions, please keep it up), but I'd hate to not recognize the input of touring professional Sean Murphy. He commented on Jeff Rude's story, where Murphy was mentioned (and constructively criticized).
From the former Executive Director of the USGA:
I applaud your exposure of USGA JetGate.
Don’t stop. A revolt, with blood in the streets, is needed. If you can’t become the Danton of that upsurge you could at least play Woodward and Bernstein.
Flying members of the USGA Executive Committee hither and yon in leased jets, while it may so far have cost what you estimate to be $340,000, is not about the money. To that institution, whose investments have a street value of about $300 million, leasing a jet equates to tip money.
What matters is the change in motivation for those aspiring to reach high office in the USGA. In our society there are two things that get many people of wealth off. One is appearing on television. The other is private jets. Having forced NBC to put them on television during USGA championships years earlier, they have now gone 2 for 2.
As far as I know, it is not above the law for entities labeled 501c3 for tax purposes to have their officers soar in the wild blue yonder on leased jets, but it’s something some people might want to think about when asked to contribute to the USGA members program. Signing on, of course, makes them a member of nothing.
The USGA says that JetGate is entirely open and above board. They point to an audit committee to approve jet travel – the audit committee consisting of themselves. Apparently it was nothing but an oversight that the signing of a lease for private jets was not put up on the USGA web site. The answer to who has flown where is, “it’s none of your business.”
The argument posed for private jets seems to be there are new and terrible demands for the time of Executive Committee members, coupled with the USGA’s proclivity for scheduling events in citadels of the remote, e.g., Prairie Dunes in Hutchison, Kansas.
I’m afraid what it boils down to, besides the hubris, is that it was too much to ask outgoing president Fred Ridley, who lives in Tampa, to change planes in Chicago.
USGA officers travel more and spend more nights away from home because they get a kick out of it. It makes them feel good. Playing USGA is a delightful contrast with the dreary things they have to do to make a living.
As for travel time, I recall that the most important and successful USGA president in history was Richard S. Tufts, who ran Pinehurst. How long do you think it took Dick Tufts to get from Pinehurst to Union Station in Los Angeles by train prior to a US Open at Riviera? Three and a half days, that’s how long. Then he had to get back too.
Wait. The USGA says there is also a hue and a cry for its officers, especially its president, to speak at dinners. Never mind that Fred Ridley is neither Daniel Webster nor Barack Obama. The demand for his presence and words, they say, exists.
Here’s what the USGA should do. Like their brethren of the R&A in Scotland they should create the position of Captain, a person with no power who is garbed in a red jacket and goes about making speeches. Nobody would object if the Captain’s expenses were paid. The Captain might even go out with an iPod secreted in his sternum which would bleat out phrases like “We love this game”, “the ball does NOT go too far,” and “Michelle Wie most certainly was an amateur golfer.”
Ridley and Walter Driver, who will succeed Ridley at the USGA annual meeting on Feb. 4, have been the dominant USGA figures of the last l0 years. If Queen Elizabeth was doing analysis for The Golf Channel she most term it the USGAs “decadus horriblus.” The failure to regulate equipment ranks highest among the failures, but it is not isolated.
Look, an entity like the USGA definitely needs a governing board, but one that is focused on matters of grand policy, not on hole locations for the US Open. The most important thing the USGA executive committee does, by miles, is to name an executive director, the head of staff. Absurdly, they try to function under the myth that the president is “the chief executive officer.”
There are 3 meetings of the Executive Committee per year. They run a couple of days. In truth, to serve on an the executive committee requires only a showing up at those meetings IF the member reads what is sent to him and is capable of using a phone and E Mail. They are not needed at US Opens. If not one of them showed up at Winged Foot next June no one would notice the difference.
Sadly, they have become more surreptitious. It used to be true that changes in the by-laws were presented in writing for approval by the member clubs. That provision was struck down not long ago so that the committee itself could change the by-laws without dvising the membership in advance.
Soon they liberalized the expense compensation policy for themselves and then upped the ante in 2004 to jets.
When I pointed out in public that there was a by-law provision whereby any five USGA clubs could run a rump slate against the establishment slate they jumped the number to 20.
The senior staff knows better. Some of them cringe. But to cry out could mean that their kids might not be able to go to four year
I got a big kick out of executive director David Fay’s explanation to you of why the jets are needed. He mused about the time away from home issue and then allowed as how, who knows, there could be a president who would come along and change all that.
Geoff, my man, that’s what is known as wishful thinking.
Damon Hack writes about Bubba Watson:
A confluence of fitness, equipment and old-fashioned swing speed have rendered the PGA Tour a slamfest in recent years, and Watson is at the forefront of that push — at least in swing speed.
"My dad gave me a 9-iron at age 6 and said, 'Hit it as hard as you can,' " said Watson, who weighs 180 pounds. "It's about hitting the ball in the center of the club face and hitting it hard.
"If it ever comes down to where I need a lesson, I'm retiring," Watson added. "People say, 'Quiet your hips, do your elbow.' I don't have a clue what that means. I just hit it."
As for hitting the gym?
"I just like to sleep," he said. "I think Tiger and his caddie went out running yesterday, and I was like, 'You won't see me doing that, and my caddie won't be running, either.'
"My wife has tried a few times to get me to work out, and she yells at me about that, but I don't see myself doing that," Watson added. "There will be no yoga, you won't see me lift up any weights over 100 pounds."
Okay then, it's the "agronomy." In Bubba's case.
Regarding the USGA's private jet program and trying to understand the rationale for specific trips taken, the USGA's Marty Parkes says that information given to me by David Fay and posted here, "is what we're prepared to share."
Parkes says there are "several valid reasons why such confidentially is warranted," though he did not elaborate on what those reasons are.
What is so sensitive about a trip similar to the Kennebunkport First Tee meeting that was cited? Or some rubber chicken golf association dinners?
And why would those require confidentiality when the USGA Audit Committee has evaluated and cleared them as acceptable?
George White compares 2000 Tiger to last year's edition.
OK, let’s go to a stat which is fairly meaningless when you are bombing drives out there that distance. Let’s compare driving accuracy. He hit 71.2 percent of his fairways in 2000. And last year he hit – just 54.6? His ranking last year was 188th, while in 2000 he was 54th.
OK, fair enough, but the fairways-hit figure is fairly inconsequential when one is hitting wedges and 9-irons into virtually every par-4 green. So let’s compare greens hit. In 2005 he hit 70 percent, good for sixth on tour. And in 2000 he hit – a little better than 75 percent, which was first on tour.
This has probably been covered before on this web site, or maybe it was just something I obsessed over in a book proposal that was met by some of the most hilarious rejection excuses of all time. Anyway, his fairway hit percentage drops nearly 17% in 2005 and his green in regulation number only drops 5%.
Flogging man, it works!
White also writes:
Now, let me tell you what is wrong with all this analysis: golf courses have gotten longer and tighter than in 2000; and equipment has changed dramatically. Not to mention that the men who are playing this year – heck, the men who were playing LAST year – are much different from 2000. Are they a better group than 2000? Undoubtedly they are. Golf in 2006 is not the same game as Golf 2000.
At the pace we're on, imagine how much different golf in 2012 will be than golf 2006?